“Jesus said unto her, ‘…go, and sin no more.’” John 8:11
It is the quote featured on the front of their pamphlet, a precautionary one dedicated to, as their signs say, “rebellious women,” amongst others. They stand, they scream, they warn until they are red in the face. But who are these people, and what are they doing on our campus?
It never seems to fail that several times every semester a group of people show up in the Lowman Student Center mall area holding signs and screaming their beliefs. This group belongs to two different organizations: the Pentecostal Lighthouse Church, led by Pastor Joshua Herridge, and the Consuming Fire Fellowship Church, led by Britt Williams.
Every school day from Friday through Tuesday, these organizations stood out in front of the LSC, yelling at most any students that happened to be passing by.
“We’re here today preaching the gospel to them,” Williams said. “The Bible says there’s a means to communicate the gospel, and that means is preaching. The Greek word for preach means ‘public crier’.”
Well, if there is anything these organizations are good at, it is crying publicly. The screams of their preachers can be heard from several buildings away. Their wildly colorful and straight-forward signs catch the eye immediately, begging to be questioned. They say fairly straightforward things like “LAKE OF FIRE FOR ALL SINNERS,” “ETERNAL HELL AWAITS” and “#BE A HO NO MO.”
While explaining the theatrical protest tactics his church uses, Williams brought up a movement that he felt was comparable to his own: the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
“There used to be free speech areas all over campus when I was a young man,” Williams said. “The ‘60s protests and what have you. People were not afraid to speak their ideas publicly in a very passionate manner. It’s not isolated to Christianity.”
Some have spoken out on Facebook, voicing their disillusionment with the ongoing ruckus these organizations bring to campus.
“I don’t pay this school money to have a disruptive learning environment throughout the week,” Digital Forensics major Yesenia Valles said. “I can sit in class and be distracted almost the entire time because there is a horde of religious nuts outside literally screaming. Freedom of speech is fine, but once it starts to impact the quality of classes students pay for, there is a huge problem.”
Their homemade signs included warnings to people in the following categories: “lewd women, sports nuts, Mormons, pot-smoking little devils, homos, witches, rebellious women” and so forth.
In the midst of the intense and sometimes vitriolic nature of the event, students could be seen “counter-protesting” them, in a manner just as loud and proud. At one point, the sound of the church’s yelling was completely drowned out by more than a dozen college students yelling the words to the early 2000s hit song “All Star” by Smash Mouth.
“I’ve been going here for four years now,” senior Zeke Lewis said. “They come all the time, they stand in the LSC area, and they tell people they’re going to hell, call people names. It’s not the right approach, but there’s freedom of speech, and we are a public campus, so they’re able to come do it. I’m a Christian, but I don’t believe in spewing hatred.”
Some let themselves get worked up, some argue with them just as passionately, some clown around, and some simply stand and watch. There were even people there who skipped class to see what all the fuss was about.
The effectiveness— or lack of— is clear at this point. Both organizations are free to continue coming to campus and yelling at students, but they should be mindful that these students yell back. That is the beauty of the college campus culture— every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In their attempt to shame rebellious women, homosexuals, sports enthusiasts, and others, they instead bring them together into a unified force.
Even if the students’ reproach together is singing washed-up pop hits in a unified manner to drown out the hate, it is still a more profound sense of community than one that thrives off yelling at unsuspecting college students.